21 Habits That Are Making You Age Faster
These toxic habits may be aging you faster than you think. Here are the things that could be affecting how old you look and feel.
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Aging habits to quit
The best habits to help you slow down aging might not be too surprising—like exercising and eating more vegetables. What’s more shocking are the things you might be doing every day that are actually making you age more quickly. Here are the things that could be affecting how old you look and feel.
Throwing the most elaborate, perfect party ever
Perfectionism is a toxic side effect of our social media-saturated culture, causing undue stress as we try to keep up with everyone else on the planet, according to psychotherapist Mike Dow, PsyD, PhD, author of Chicken Soup for the Soul: Think, Act & Be Happy. “Perfectionism plagues the brain with negative thoughts which cause a release of stress hormones, and that can actually accelerate aging,” he explains. “While it’s fantastic to want to do your best, it’s also OK to have a B-plus house party or to take a day off to relax and do nothing.” (Find out more about how negative thinking can age you faster.)
Ignoring your depression and hoping it goes away
Research has found that depression isn’t just uncomfortable; it also makes you age faster by accelerating brain shrinkage, Dr. Dow says. Take your mental health as seriously as your physical health and be sure to seek professional help if you’ve been struggling with dark days for more than two weeks. Cognitive-behavioral therapy, or CBT, can help you feel happier fast, he adds. (Find out the 12 signs that your brain is aging faster than you are.)
Being too busy to slap on some sunscreen every morning
It doesn’t matter if you’re not hitting the beach or spending all day outside—you still need to apply sunscreen every day, says facial plastic surgeon Jacob Steiger, MD. The sun is the biggest factor in aging skin, so if you don’t want wrinkles before your time, make sure you’re applying a lotion with at least SPF 30 every morning, he says. His pro tip: Put it on first before any makeup or other products.
Having a cigarette or two on the weekends
Think that just because you’re only a “social smoker,” you’re safe from the harmful effects of cigarettes? Nope. Tobacco contains more than 3,800 chemical components, which can damage skin tissue, making you older both inside and out, Dr. Steiger says. “Smoking also triggers enzymes that break down the skin’s elasticity and cause fine lines and wrinkles,” he adds. Your cigarette habit may even be one of the sneaky reasons your hair is turning gray.
Bailing on girls’ or guys’ night out
Friends aren’t just good for remembering your birthday or picking you up from the airport; friendships also have powerful anti-aging benefits. “Studies have shown that people with a strong social network and satisfying relationships tend to lead longer (not to mention happier) lives,” says Hersha Diaz, PhD, a licensed clinical psychologist. Set a monthly friend night, even if it’s just a virtual hangout, and resist the urge to skip it for an evening on the couch with Netflix.
Having a to-do list longer than your grocery list
In our “go, go, go” culture, it’s natural to have daily demands and deadlines, but if you’re constantly running from one thing to the next, caught in a whirlwind of business, you are aging yourself faster, Dr. Diaz says. “Stress hormones cause your blood vessels to constrict, and chronic stress increases your risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, and stroke. It can also cause or exacerbate mental health problems,” she explains. (Find out the 12 telltale signs that you’re stressed.)
Hitting up the coffeehouse every day
Drinking coffee is a major part of many people’s daily lives, but your java habit may be aging you, says David Greuner, MD, of NYC Surgical Associates. “Coffee lowers dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), a hormone that keeps appearance youthful and reduces inflammation.” Levels of this key hormone start to drop naturally as you age, and coffee accelerates the process. Limit yourself to one or two cups a day, max.
Sleeping on a cheap pillowcase
Think about it: Every night you’re pressing the delicate skin of your face into your pillow for eight hours straight. So if your pillowcase is made from anything other than silk, you could be bringing on premature wrinkles and sagging, Dr. Greuner says. “Pillowcases made of cotton restrict your skin from smoothly moving and keeping its natural shape and form,” he explains.
Ordering a bottle of wine to go with dinner
When it comes to aging and alcohol, there’s a fine line between protective and problematic. Some studies have found that the occasional glass of wine may offer some anti-aging benefits, but more than one drink a day is associated with a decrease in lifespan, says Bindaya Gandhi, MD. “Excessive alcohol consumption ages people faster by causing a neurodegenerative decline, worsening hormone imbalances, causing sleep problems, and increasing body fat, which can lead to numerous (and aging) medical problems like diabetes,” she explains. (Need help? Here are 17 ways to cut back on drinking.)
Hunching over your laptop
You know the posture that older people tend to get, that makes them chronically hunched over? Now, many people are getting that posture much younger due to constantly bending over a phone, laptop, or tablet, says David A. Shapiro, DC, CEO of Complete Spine Solutions. “Also known as ‘tech neck,’ this forward head posture rounds the upper back and puts stress on the front of the spine,” he explains. This habit can actually weaken your spinal structure, causing arthritis, a common ailment among older people, he adds. (Avoid these 7 exercise mistakes that make you look older.)
Eating junk food
You know junk food isn’t good for you, but eating processed, low-nutrient foods regularly can age you faster than you can say “Where’s my denture cream?” according to author and registered dietitian Shawn M. Talbott, PhD.
“Eating a diet full of fiber-rich fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, like the Mediterranean diet, helps you sleep better and protects against stress—two things that will help you look and feel younger,” he says.
Using a straw
Plastic straws are not only bad for the environment—they’re also bad for you, causing you to look older than you are, says Joseph Cruise, MD, a board-certified plastic surgeon. “Using your lips to sip from a straw can lead to lip lines and wrinkles surrounding your mouth,” he explains. Thankfully, the solution is simple: Ditch the straw and drink your (unsweetened) beverage straight from the glass.
Not wearing sunglasses
Who hasn’t forgotten their sunglasses on the front seat of the car and accidentally crunched a pair? Time to take better care of your glasses so they can take care of your eyes, Dr. Cruise says. Not only does wearing sunglasses (yes, even on cloudy days) help prevent fine lines around your eyes, but they also help protect your eyes from cancer and cataracts and help keep your vision sharp.
Eating big meals
Eating large meals more than twice a week can accelerate aging because overindulging puts oxidative stress on your cells, according to emergency physician Chirag Shah, MD, co-founder of Accesa Labs. “Eating small, regular meals and reducing food intake by 50 percent or more can help slow down the aging process,” he explains. “Less energy is needed by the body to digest the food and can be utilized for other, more valuable metabolic processes that help improve cell and organ health.”
You had the best of intentions when you made that resolution to exercise more. But you’ve just been so busy and working out hasn’t been a priority. Unfortunately, not getting enough exercise is one of the fastest ways to age your body, Dr. Shah says. Lose the stress by making a commitment to take a walk or hit the gym, at least three times a week, he advises. Ride an exercise bike while you watch your favorite show or walk around the neighborhood with your family. Exercise doesn’t have to be tough to make a big difference—that’s one of the 8 common aging myths.
Skipping the weight machines
Muscle strength directly correlates to how well you age, says Barry Sears, MD, author of the Zone Diet book series and president of the nonprofit Inflammation Research Foundation. Increasing your muscle mass by strength training (at the gym or in your daily life) helps protect your heart, brain, and bones, helping you look and feel younger, he explains. Need ideas? Start with the best workout you should do at every age.
Not taking care of your smile
Your teeth are one of the first places to show the wear and tear of aging, according to celebrity dentist Jon Marashi, DDS. Protect your youthful smile by brushing and flossing daily and seeing your dentist for regular checkups. Investing in whitening strips or other cosmetic procedures (talk to your dentist) can take years off your look, he adds.
Buying only fat-free foods
Eating a low-fat diet may help you lose weight (or not), but one thing it definitely does is speed up the aging process, says Usama Azam, MD, of Health Tips Hub. Omega-3 fatty acids—a type of fat found in fatty fish and nuts—are essential for maintaining youthful-looking skin and increasing heart health. “You must consume healthy fats on a regular basis,” he says.
Wearing too much makeup
It’s a terrible catch-22: We often wear makeup to help us look younger, but much of what we put on our skin is speeding up the aging process, Dr. Azam says. “Wearing too much makeup clogs the skin pores and removes the natural oils which protect the skin, both of which can cause premature lines and wrinkles,” he says. Some makeup also contain harsh chemicals and toxins.
A lack of physical intimacy means missing out on a wealth of physical benefits that can increase both the length and quality of your life, says Laura Deitsch, a licensed clinical professional counselor and sexologist for Vibrant. “Sex has been found to decrease blood pressure, boost the immune system, reduce headache pain, improve bladder control in women, and decrease the chances of prostate cancer in men, just to name a few youthful benefits,” she says. (Here’s how many times you need to have sex to slow down aging.)
Not having good sex
Having sex is a great start, but if you’re routinely missing out on orgasms, then you’re not getting the maximum anti-aging benefits, Dr. Deitsch says. “Achieving climax can boost self-esteem, decrease anxiety and depression, and give your body a big dose of oxytocin, the happy hormone,” she explains.
Next, check out the reasons people age faster in winter.
- Mike Dow, PsyD, PhD, author of Chicken Soup for the Soul: Think, Act & Be Happy
- Jacob Steiger, MD, a facial plastic surgeon
- Hersha Diaz, PhD, a licensed clinical psychologist
- David Greuner, MD, of NYC Surgical Associates
- Bindaya Gandhi, MD
- David A. Shapiro, DC, CEO of Complete Spine Solutions
- Shawn M. Talbott, PhD, author and registered dietitian
- Joseph Cruise, MD, a board-certified plastic surgeon
- Chirag Shah, MD, emergency physician and co-founder of Accesa Labs
- Barry Sears, MD, author of the Zone Diet book series and president of the nonprofit Inflammation Research Foundation
- Jon Marashi, DDS, celebrity dentist
- Usama Azam, MD, of Health Tips Hub
- Laura Deitsch, a licensed clinical professional counselor, and sexologist for Vibrant